In a class of her own

In A Class of Her Own from this week’s Spectator (free registration required; goes PPV when next edition is out).

The author, James Bartholomew, explains why he is taking his daughter out of school (in Aix-en-Provence, France) to teach her himself, to get to know her while she is still a little girl and not just when she is tired in the evening, and because among other things schools there do not teach children proper grammar and how to conjugate être and avoir. He also intends to take her on visits to art galleries and museums and allow her to explore her fascinations with things like bugs and sea-shells. He objects to what he considers propaganda in the classroom (actually, some of these opinions I agree with, but never mind …) and also explodes the myth about “socialisation” whereby kids supposedly need to be thrown into a playground with loads of other kids their own age (and not much older or younger) to learn social skills:

The reactions of friends are usually positive and teachers, surprisingly, are often the most enthusiastic. But there is one recurring negative response, ‘What about her socialisation?’ Many worry that children cannot learn to rub along with others without going to school. Yet I am told, by those who have studied the evidence, that it is actually the other way around: those who are home-educated are better ‘socialised’.

I have also noticed with my elder daughter that the longer term goes on, the more she says ‘whatever’ and affects disinterest in pretty well everything (except horses). Only as the holidays progress does she rejoin the human race and allow herself to be enthusiastic. I have come to wonder whether schools have a tendency to put children off learning.

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  • Old Pickler

    It depends on the home and the school. Generally I’d say it was better for children to be at school, but these days schools don’t encourage individuality because there are so many tests and so many boxes to tick.

    When I think of homeschooling I think of Ruth Lawrence and other hothoused kids.

  • Richard

    The modern education system was invented in the middle of the last century, during the industrial revolution for a specific and well-publicised reason: to destroy any sense of wonder or imagination a child might have and prepare them for a life of unrewarding drudgery in a shop, an office or a factory. Read Hard Times, by Charles Dickens.

    What reasonable person would sit in an office eight hours a day (with half an hour for lunch), performing a set of routine tasks that would drive a chimpanzee mad. It takes years of indoctrination by the state.

    Hence the futile years wasted in the prison cell of a classroom when little children are forced to spend trying to memorise facts and figures about the kings and queens of England. Step out of line - question the context - and you are punished with isolation or humiliation or expulsion. A bit like telling your boss you don’t want to work this weekend.

    Any bright child can learn literacy and numeracy skills (or even a foreign language) in a matter of weeks. And we learn from our parents, not from teachers.